This piece was originally published in The Hill.
One of my favorite breakfast foods when I was a kid, and even now, was pancakes. My mom made hers extra buttery with crispy edges and a pat of butter that would soak through. And of course you had to have rich dark syrup cascading down the sides. A delightful sticky mess to accompany Saturday morning cartoons.
The mad men and women of marketing have done their jobs, because even to this day when I think of pancakes and syrup I automatically picture Aunt Jemima. We had both the syrup and the pancake mix. When my parents bought the knockoff version, we were convinced that we could tell the difference.
It wasn’t until I got to college and earned my degree in Anthropology and Africana Studies that I had learned how problematic the Aunt Jemima figure was. Without taking you down the history of the de-sexualized, “happy slave” narrative that Aunt Jemima hearkens to, understand that Aunt Jemima has been used as a pejorative against Black women for decades.